The Guardian


By Stephanie Billen

Picks of the Week

Pick of the Day Otto Baxter: Not a F***ing Horror Story

Sky Documentaries, 9pm

Otto Baxter has spent his whole life in front of the camera; but now, at 35, he’s making his own documentary to tell his story of growing up with Down’s syndrome exactly how he wants to. What’s more, it follows him as he records an autobiographical comedy-horror musical set in Victorian London (which is also available to watch on Sky). Helped by his film-maker friends Bruce Fletcher and Peter Beard, it’s a fresh, touching and very funny watch. “In the roaring waters, I hear the voices of dead friends…” Derek Jarman’s narration in his final film, Blue, still speaks to us across the decades. Sunday Feature: Forever Blue (Sunday, Radio 3, 6.45pm) commemorates the 30th anniversary of this remarkable project which used a blue screen as its only visual. We are reminded of the enormity of the Aids tragedy and the sadness of Jarman’s demise, but also of the support he received from companion Keith Collins and from members of the artistic community, many of whom feature in this touching documentary.

NatureBang (Monday, Radio 4, 1.45pm) returns with presenters Becky Ripley and Emily Knight analysing why the sound of laughter is important to animals and humans alike. Interestingly, humour is not discussed in this programme. Instead we learn how animals use “play vocalisations” (noises akin to laughter) to disambiguate behaviour that could be seen as hostile. Meanwhile, as “social primates”, humans do something not dissimilar using laughter as a form of communication that reduces stress in our interactions with others.

In Slow Air (Monday, Radio 4, 2.15pm), innovative playwright Dan Reballato (You & Me) imagines a Sicilian cave that can trap an echo for 32 years. Paul (Forbes Masson) and his wife Zoe utter secret messages there when they are on honeymoon in 1991 but eight years later, she dies in a car accident. Now, 32 years on, their daughter is keen to go back to hear what Zoe said, an idea Paul finds too painful. As listeners, we are left pondering why a disembodied voice can seem comforting or else uniquely disturbing.

Part of Radio 4’s celebration of 100 years of BBC Radio drama, You Must Listen (Wednesday, Radio 4, 2.15pm) is a new version of a play that was broadcast in 1952 but subsequently lost. Thankfully, writer Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame retained the script enabling us to revisit his intriguing story of an office phone line apparently haunted by the voice of a disturbed woman one-sidedly talking to a lover. Clever sound design and a lively cast including Toby Jones, Reece Shearsmith and Caroline Catz help make this nostalgic production a keeper.

7.0 7.30

When Bridges Collapse: The Genoa Disaster